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Bad service in German restaurants, new study finds

DDP/The Local · 12 Dec 2009, 11:38

Published: 12 Dec 2009 11:38 GMT+01:00

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The study, carried out by the Hamburg-based German Institute for Service Quality (DISQ), found that the service personnel in many chains lacked basic competence.

"On average, the quality of service is only satisfactory," said Markus Hamer, director of the DISQ, "In only three out of eight of the companies we tested were all the orders completed correctly." According to the study, in one of the chains, seven out of ten orders were incomplete.

The DISQ tested eight well-known restaurant chains with table-service and at least 25 branches in Germany. The best of this bad crop was the steak restaurant Block House, followed by pork-based chain Schweinske and the Argentinian-style steak house Maredo. The last places went to Pizza Hut, Café Extrablatt und the chicken restaurant Wienerwald.

Hamer said there were particular deficiencies in the knowledge that service personnel had of the food they were serving. "Over half of the testers did not receive satisfactory information about ingredients and possible problems with allergies," he said. But Hamer conceded that friendliness and short waiting times were generally good.

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DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:34 December 12, 2009 by ottokar27
Bad service is right! But I'm not concerned with botched orders or lack of knowledge of the menu, I'm talking about how the servers are less than pleasant and often rude. I wish the restaurant culture in Germany could change but I unfortunately don't have a solution. In the U.S., wait-staff make most of their money on tips and are therefore trying to serve you as well as they can. They smile, they come back to check often. Many times in German restaurants I'll sit down somewhere and it will be 10 to fifteen minutes before a server or host even acknowledges my presence, let alone gives me a menu. It's like German waitors/tresses have never been to a well-functioning, efficient restaurant before. Don't they get that I'm the customer and want to give them business?
13:27 December 12, 2009 by gatmood
no need for a study to know that.

but i would say is a cultural issue. Germans are not friendly at all... how can you expect to be served well in a restaurant? the best thing is to "give orders" as they do, and then they will do their job.
15:28 December 12, 2009 by Ceven
It's more that they know that needy people are jerks who want their a** kissed for the blessing of their presence. German customer service is bad, but I'd take it over fake U.S. niceness anytime. If you have to sit and wait 10-15 minutes for a menu either you are exagerating or probably just a jerk that people can spot at 20 paces. It's not nearly as bad as that here.
15:52 December 12, 2009 by FrankSchreier
Good point, Ceven.. but at the end of the day (or dinner), I don't care how fake (overtly or not) the service is, as long as is service. And "service" is a concept removed from Germany, not only restaurants (with many exceptions, of course.. just like the rules of grammar...), but from bars, call centers, service providers (Unity Media, T-Com), supermarkets, stores, public transit personnel (at least in Cologne), some sport studios, hospitals, medical offices and public offices.. and we could keek going.

The "study" should provide causes and reasons if it wants to avoid just expressing the obvious.

My experience is mixed and have had great service in some places (Strandgut Hotel in S. Peter Ording) and call centers (deutsche Kredit Bank) and some companies (Cambio in Cologne - not the one from Bremen!), but my overall "feeling" is that there is a lack of basic respect to the customer that really starts from upper managent (why bother with "customers"? they are bound by contract or need, so it is irrelevant what they feel and wish), who fails to inspire and control their employees' attitudes toward customers.

I agree with Ceven that the US customer care is many times unbearably fake and that many times customer are just ass.oles who push their inferiority complexes and "royal" expectations to others and demand to be "served" (although slow service is not necessarily bound to a person's demeanor).

But Germany needs a reform of the customers' legal rights when dealing with service providers (like telephone, cable, public services) and a massive social reform for companies that deal with customers (like call centers, public offices).

Since "social contracts" seem to be in vogue, who knows? It may work... however, I wonder with whom will the FDP side: the citizen or the business???
16:03 December 12, 2009 by LiterallySimon
The FDP only sides with citizens when working against the government in terms of tax reduction and regulations. Want rights when in conflict with business? Forget it!
18:07 December 12, 2009 by Devtc33
I keep going back to the "chain restaurant". The fact is the best service is giving by establishments locally owned in smaller towns and cities. This is where I find the best service and always have. Those of you living and eating in the larger cities need to get out of the metropolitan areas.

Those of you expecting waiters to come up to you all the time and ask how things are going should get a life and perhaps have a conversation with the people around you and not on the net.

It is well known that service in the US is different but since there are so many jobs in the service industry there is competition. I do not want my waiters to be as strippers and constantly come up to you and ask for a lap dance. I just would like to eat and have decent conversations with nice people and when I need something I do know how to ask.
21:40 December 12, 2009 by ColoSlim
I have traveled extensively throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Nowhere gives their worst as well as Germany. Dozens of towns in at least eight regions, it is always slow, slower, and slowest. There is a quick test that can be done from the sidewalk. If more than 25% of the customers are sitting with empty tables, empty glasses, and are looking very hungry MOVE on. It is easy to see and usually there is a better restaurant only a few feet/meters away.
22:20 December 12, 2009 by puisoh
I totally agree with Melf and Moondancer. If you think Germany is bad, try Spain (Barcelona) or Italy (Milan, Florence) or Vietnam.

I work in a restaurant myself and you should just see how customers behave .. they don't answer you when they are greeted. Their kids running around in a fullhouse restaurant and they expect that to be normal and they just don't know their manners, menu wide open and they expect to be approached for orders .... waving and signalling to COOKS in open-kitchen for payment and ordering ...

Customers should review how they behave in the first place, it is a mirror effect.

Most of them think that just because they are paying customers, they do not need to respect staff at restaurants.
22:39 December 12, 2009 by ovbg
I find Moondancer's post very interesting from an inside point of view. The service I get at German restaurants varies greatly but is certainly much better than it was 10 years ago. That said, there is often still a terrible gab between quality of service here and most other countries I have lived in or visited.

Moondancer gave reasons why there are often not enough staff, or why staff can't be fired when they are not good. The first part really has to be addressed by upper management. The second... well, there is very little that can be done here.

My rule is simple. If I get bad service in a restaurant, I never return. Ever. I also write a review online and I tell my friends to avoid. The review should allow the management to know what exactly was wrong. If it was the quality of food, or poor quality staff, or being understaffed. Get the name of that waiter if they are especially rude to you. If they are too busy, it is not clearly not their fault and this should be reflected in the review, but if they are simply tossers, then they deserved to be named on a review or reported to management.

Never be rude to waiter staff, even if they are rude back to you. It maybe hard, but pay back in other ways. If I get especially bad service I also respond with a tiny tip. I may pass 1cent to them at the end and politely tell them that is their tip. It says an aweful lot more than not leaving a tip but I only reserve this for extremely bad service.

If more people done what I suggest above, I wouldn't be surprised to find service improving.
23:11 December 12, 2009 by snorge
Restaurant service is bad in Germany? Whewww, thats a new one!

How about Customer Service "in general" in Germany. It sucks EVERYWHERE! Especially bad is the German Post Office who can't deliver a letter/package if their life depended on it! Let alone track a lost letter or package. I have sent only 3 things in the mail in Germany, 2 out of 3 lost... 7 months later, they still could not find them...

Everywhere I go in Germany, customer service sucks. You get attitude for asking people who should not even have such a job to do their job. Its amazing!

Maybe this country should go on a tip/performance based pay. I bet those lazy waiters and postal workers would get it right!

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot... They have a right to their job.... Silly me....
00:19 December 13, 2009 by duckys
There is a place in Freisinig that had the best service and food i have ever tasted and I have been here for about 8 years... Yah of course... I am sure there are much more... but yah i agree the service in germany overall for customer service....

is no such thing... either eat it or leave it or just figure it out on your own...
10:03 December 13, 2009 by twisted
Note the thread is about chain restaurants. I personally am not a fan of chain restaurants as not only can the service be bad but the food tends to be pretty bad as well, with the exception of the Block House chain. There I have never had bad service or food (and the owner trained in the U.S.). Regarding privately owned restaurants, I avoid the cheapies simply because I have no idea where they acquire their food…chickens with no feathers ­ ugh. No, if you go to better class restaurants, you will get good food and decent service 90% of the time. If you only want to save money, well, you get what you pay for.
10:26 December 13, 2009 by BDannyBoi
Germans instinctively draw sharp lines between "friends," "acquaintances," and "strangers." Once they accept you into the "one of us" tribe, they can be extraordinarily generous and loyal. As a foreigner in Germany, I find the key to getting good service is a gesture or compliment that tells your server that you share something in common - political views, sexuality, taste in clothes, music, etc.
11:49 December 13, 2009 by Bushdiver
Service was never a word in the German vocabulary whether it be a resturant or one of the local stores downtown. It has over the years improved a lot over the way it was 42 years ago when I first came here.
12:08 December 13, 2009 by Melmarino
Future articles for TL:

"Water found to be wet"

"Explosions cause noise"

"Putting hand on hot stove causes burns"

Give me a break! Is there any less informative study than this?
12:50 December 13, 2009 by lebuier
Bad service in Germany???????

Certainly not in the former east.

I am forever amazed at how professional, gracious and down right pleasant the service is here.

Could go on and on with so many wonderful experiences I have had.

Long live the former East!!!!!

I love my Ozzies.!!!!
12:57 December 13, 2009 by Jollyjack
I don't use the chains so none of these comments apply.
15:01 December 13, 2009 by barracks
ha!ha! foreigner all critics of German, maybe why.I also wonder with all the critics of the normal posters here still germany is known in the whole world with a high quality products and very successful compared to other countries in europe.
16:00 December 13, 2009 by mixxim
I find most restaurants give good friendly service. Who wants stuffy 'correct' waiters? Now as for the lack of staff in supermarkets and department stores....
20:22 December 13, 2009 by ovbg
^^ why complain about the chains? Because they usually do have the worst service and very average good. The best restaurants I know if in Frankfurt are the small independent places. I have found quite a few where the food is simply stunning and the service wonderful. It's just s pity the majority are not like this.

What I hate the most is the long wait for the bill. When I ask got the bill that means I want to leave. Not hang around for another 15minutes to contemplate how slow the rest of the service was. Why is it in so many german restaurants, even when the food comes on time it often takes so long for the bill to come?
15:13 December 14, 2009 by airborne1092
When I think of poor service in a German restaurant, I think of two things; One, their livelihood is not dependant on tips, such as the case is in America, and two, for quite a few Germans, a job is a job is a job.

Going through a job finding service can be costly and I have heard from German friends that sometimes you don't find the job you want, but you still have to put food on the table regardless. Perhaps it wasn't their dream job - to work in a sweaty, dark and smoky imbiss, coming home smelling like fried food every night. Having said that I can be a bit more sympathetic about (IMO) sub-par service. I know I know, many times being a waitress in America earning less than minimum wage and relying on tips may not be a dream job either, however, Americans more often have the luxury of searching for another job WHILE they bus tables or work as wait staff.

Nowadays, I don't feel bad about not tipping if the service was exceptionally poor knowing they are earning (for the most part) sustainable wages. I try to speak my best German, I dress perhaps NOT like a German but less like an American, I watch my table manners and I try not to stand out while eating out. At some point the wait staff realizes for themselves that I'm not German and it truly seems that I get a genuine effort more often than not. Lastly, I actually enjoy not being pestered about my meal and I also like determining when I pay the bill.
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